In the end, in the NFL, it's all about the play at quarterback and the performance of the coaching staff.
This is not a revolutionary concept, that the most important position on the field is at quarterback and that a coaching staff here is more important than in any sport at any level. In high school football, the team with the most talent generally wins. Same in college, and most of the time you see it by a decided advantage.
The NFL is totally different. The talent is generally spread equally among the 32 teams. Certainly there are some exceptions, but by and large teams have a similar talent base and, again this is a generalization but I think a valid one, that is why the phrase "On any given Sunday" is especially true.
Quarterback, though, is a position where the level of talent and the consistency in performance can make such a huge difference between winning and losing. If you have a great quarterback, you have a chance to win every week.
Is Michael Vick a great quarterback? At times he plays like one -- when he is decisive and elusive in and out of the pocket, when he has command of what the defense is trying to do to him, when he secures the football and when he and the rest of the offense are perfectly in sync. That hasn't happened enough, clearly, in 2012 to classify Vick that way.
As the Eagles returned from their bye week on Monday for a 10-10-10 practice, the media gathered in the locker room at the NovaCare Complex searching for answers. What they got were a few players who spoke, who understood the urgency of the situation and who expressed optimism about the 10 games ahead and the possibilities that remain for the Eagles.
In other words, just a lot of words.
For the Eagles to truly turn the season into what they want this season to be, the coaches have to be better and they have to, in turn, make Michael Vick a better quarterback. It's not that simple, of course, and it certainly isn't easy. But it's the belief here that the teams that win consistently more than others have a better program -- a player personnel system that feeds the right players into the coaching staff's schemes -- and a staff that gets the most out of its players.
When Andy Reid bores you in a press conference by saying "I need to put the players in better position" and you roll your eyes and say, "Not again," well, he's telling the truth. It's incumbent upon the coaching staff to make the Eagles as good as they can be in 2012.
I know that fans are curious to see how the offense responds after the week off when there appear to be no significant changes ahead. While the defense had its world turned upside down by the move to dismiss Juan Castillo as coordinator and promote Todd Bowles, the offense appears to have escaped the 3-3 start relatively unscathed. I'm not sure that will be the case.
Is there going to be a change to the starting lineup? I don't rule it out. The offensive line is certainly an area that needs to be improved -- and that's all five players up front, not just one or two guys. Vick has to be on high alert as his turnover problems are a continued focus.
And the game plan has to be an area to dissect for the coaching staff. What changes will Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg and the offensive staff, many of whom have a say in what happens on game day, do to maximize Vick's' skills, minimize the challenges the line has had and return some explosiveness and, certainly, some points, to the heretofore punch-less attack?
I remember attending a goodbye party for an assistant coaching some years ago. We were standing at a table, toasting some good wins and great times, when the coach said something that I have not forgotten.
"The difference in this league is not the talent. If that were the case," he said, "a team like the Dallas Cowboys would win a lot more than they won this year. It's coaching. It makes all the difference in this league."
I think there's a lot of truth in that statement. There are some superstars who are just so talented that they make the scheme a lot better than it is, rather than what I think is the norm. I think, instead, that the scheme makes the players more often than not, and that a quarterback makes everyone around him a lot better and that coaches have a chance, with some proper fine tuning, to make the quarterback the best he can be.
It's why I've always thought that Donovan McNabb won the lucky straw in 1999 when he came to the Eagles. Tim Couch failed in Cleveland, Akili Smith stunk in Cincinnati and Cade McNown was a whole lot of nothing in Chicago (I'll give Daunte Culpepper, who had flashes of brilliance in Minnesota and then suffered injuries, a pass). McNabb, as talented as he was, wasn't that much heads and shoulders about the rest of that, at the time, vaunted class. But he came into a stable situation in Philadelphia, had great coaching, and was surrounded by a strong defense, a good offensive line and plenty of weapons.
What's ahead for the Eagles in 2012? We'll all find out together. I'm banking on success, because I believe in this coaching staff and in Andy Reid, who has been down this road before, with strong, positive results.